The effects of being Frightened are as follows:

  • A frightened creature has disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls while the source of its fear is within line of sight.

  • The creature can't willingly move closer to the source of its fear.

Does this give a Frightened creature any extra knowledge of the location of that source?

More specifically:

A player is Frightened of a dragon, and has run into a location with two exits and no vision of the dragon. The dragon has since moved and Hidden from them, and could potentially be lurking close to either of the two exits.

The player tries to run towards the exit that, unknown to them, the dragon is lurking near. What happens?

  1. The player is not "willingly" moving closer to the dragon, they are unknowingly doing so. They can keep moving closer to the dragon up until they become aware of the dragon's location.

  2. Moving towards the dragon (even unknowingly) would be "willingly" moving closer to the dragon (here "unwilling" would be "dragged by someone else's magic" or similar). Therefore, they find themselves unable to move in that direction, and may well be able to deduce it is because the dragon's location is in that direction.

  3. Something else.


The Frightened condition isn't supernatural at all.

"Frightened" means the character is overcome with fear, the way people and animals sometimes are. Spells and magical creatures' abilities can cause it, but so can mundane effects like Intimidating Presence.

As such, I concur with HellSaint's answer. The sensible reading of "You can't willingly move closer to the source of your fear" is that you can't move closer to where you think it is. If you move closer to it because it's hiding or invisible or something, then you're doing it by accident, not willingly.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm accepting this answer because this is the clearest logical reason it would be supernatural or not. Frightened can be caused by non-magical effects, so its effects cannot universally be magical. \$\endgroup\$ – Vigil Jun 16 '18 at 9:03

Not going RAW

The player is not "willingly" moving closer to the dragon, they are unknowingly doing so. They can keep moving closer to the dragon up until they become aware of the dragon's location.

This one. Reasoning:

Frightened is obviously supposed to be a "bad" condition. Being able to know where the dragon is from it would be, sometimes, better than the problems it causes, especially for players with a liking for exploits. This is more a "the other option doesn't make much sense, mechanically" reason.

This is also hardly exploited, as even without being able to see the dragon, they still know where it is, unless the dragon specifically takes the Hide action. What I'm trying to say is that this doesn't open a "I close my eyes, now I don't see the dragon, now I can move towards it" exploit in any way.

The most Flavorful one, though

He can't move at all. He is so damn frightened of the dragon. And now the dragon is missing - he doesn't know where it is. He's too scared to move anywhere, because the dragon could be anywhere. Think about that spider at your house that disappears when you stop watching it for a second. Way scarier than when you could see it, right?

Obviously don't apply this one to your players before asking them if they are fine with that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Jul 30 '18 at 22:41
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the first section, -1 for the second \$\endgroup\$ – András Jul 7 '19 at 10:43

Yes, by RAW

The frightened condition exists in isolation--things that impose this condition merely say "become frightened". While different abilities describe how this condition is imposed, when you can end it, and so forth, they do not modify the condition itself.

Therefore, we only have the text of the condition to work with. And that text only says,

The creature can't willingly move closer to the source of its fear.

It does not specify that the creature has to see the source of its fear, or know where it is, nor does it specify a distance limit. It is categorical in stating that the creature can't move closer, and provides no mitigating circumstances.

Therefore, according to this text, the creature does get supernatural knowledge of the direction of the scary thing. The affected creature can be teleported across the plane, and as long as they're afraid, they still can't move in the direction that would bring them closer to that scary thing.

Of course, I personally think that this is pretty silly. As a DM, I would rule that the creature can't move closer to where it thinks the source of its fear is, since that makes a lot more sense, and could be a lot more thematic in terms of a scary encounter.


Since the frightened condition does not rely on you seeing the source, the character continues to flee from the last known location of the dragon. Thus, the character, moves away from the location it believes the dragon is at, and would continue toward the exit, until it again sees the dragon.

Knowing where the dragon has moved to without seeing it doesn't make sense, since this would give the character some kind of psychic ability. Especially since fright usually dulls one's reasoning not improves it.

Note: The character gets a Wisdom save each turn, a successful save ends the condition and makes the character immune to that dragon's frightful presence for 24 hours.


This is a parsing problem

There are two possible interpretations, both RAW, but only one makes sense.
The key sentence:

The creature can't willingly move closer to the source of its fear


Example: The dragon teleports out of sight, to the North. The character does not know the direction it went, and happens to head North.

Separating interpretation

You could split up the key sentence, and look at each part separately:

  • Does he move willingly? Yes (not forced movement)
  • Is he moving closer? Yes

This is not allowed by the key sentence. To solve this, you have to provide a supernatural sense to the character which way the dragon is.

Holistic interpretation

You can look at the sentence as one composite condition:

  • Is he moving in the direction of the dragon willingly? No (he just happens to go in this direction)

This interpretation works fine as long as the character has no good reason to think the dragon went North.


Both interpretations are valid and RAW, coming from the ambiguity of human language. However, for one to work, you have to introduce an otherwise unnecessary, forced and unnatural knowledge, so pick the other one.

If the dragon's location is unknown, you can go any way you do not suspect it to be

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This answer clearly explains the root of the confusion arising from the wording of the Frightened condition. This answer does the best job of explaining RAW, as it does not attempt to bypass the real issue, and instead dissects it. Nicely done. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshu's Mu Jun 15 '18 at 14:57


You should not give the player more information than is required by the game. If the dragon is hiding, don't give the tabletop information on its whereabouts. This would be a spoiler.

Let the player move anywhere he wants to. One cannot will to move closer to the source of the fear if the location of the source is unknown.

Once the dragon's location is unknown, it is neither willing or unwilling movement; It is unwitting movement.

Maybe it leads to a quantum dragon accusation by your players. Shrug it off.

There are things men players are not meant to know.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.